Every futurist and forecaster I have talked to is convinced the transformative technology of the next seven years is artificial intelligence. Everyone seems to be talking about AI. Unfortunately, most of these conversations do not lead to value creation or greater understanding. And, as an IT leader, you can bet these same conversations are reverberating throughout your organization \u2014 in particular, in the C-suite.\n\nCIOs need to jump into the conversational maelstrom, figure out which stakeholders are talking about AI, inventory what they are saying, remediate toxic misconceptions, and guide the discussion toward value-creating projects and processes.\n\nA brief history of AI hype and impact\n\nAI has been part of the IT conversation since the term was coined by Stanford University computer scientist John McCarthy in 1956. Conversations around AI have generally tracked alongside multiples waves of enthusiasm and valleys of disappointment for the technology. In 1983 the prevalent conversation regarding AI was \u201cIt\u2019s coming, it\u2019s coming!\u201d thanks in part to Edward Feigenbaum and Pamela McCorduck\u2019s The Fifth Generation: Artificial Intelligence and Japan\u2019s Computer Challenge to the World. And then just a year later, in 1984, a subset of AI startup companies in Silicon Valley collapsed, spectacularly ushering in a period known as \u201cthe AI winter.\u201d At that point, AI conversations, when they occurred, typically concluded with the determination \u201cnot yet.\u201d\n\nAround the turn of the century we \u2014 most of us unknowingly \u2014 entered the age of artificial narrow intelligence (ANI), sometimes referred to as \u201cweak AI.\u201d ANI is AI that specializes in onearea. John Zerelli, writing in A Citizen\u2019s Guide to Artificial Intelligence,contends, \u201cEvery major AI in existence today is domain-specific\u201d \u2014 i.e., ANI.\n\nThe general path forward for ANI has been that it moves into a given domain and 7 to 10 years later it becomes impossible to compete\/perform that particular task\/activity without AI. Executives need to have tactical conversations regarding which domains and activity areas \u2014 aka, in AI-speak, which definable problems and measurable goals \u2014 should be targeted with which ANI resources.\n\nBy 2009 we were surrounded by invisible ANI, in the form of purchase, viewing, listening recommendations; medical diagnostics; university admissions tasks; job placement; etc. Today ANI is ubiquitous, invisible, and fundamentally misunderstood. Ray Kurzweil, computer scientist, futurist, and director of engineering at Google, keeps telling people that if AI systems went on strike \u201cour civilization would be crippled.\u201d\n\nToday the general population is not talking substantively about AI, despite the fact that ahead-of-the-curve high performers have concluded that one can never outcompete those who use AI effectively.\n\nIn The Age of AI: And Our Human Future, Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher tell us that \u201cAI will usher in a world in which decisions are made in three primary ways: by humans [which is familiar]; by machines [which is becoming familiar], and by collaboration between humans and machines.\u201d Organizations need to have conversations detailing how critical decisions will be made.\n\nTaking practical steps\n\nOrganizations need to have conversations with every employee to determine their preferences regarding what kind of AI assistance they need to maximize their performance\/engagement.\n\nOne of the most important conversations about AI that is not happening enough today is how it should be regulated. In his still-relevant mega-best-seller Future Shock, my former boss Alvin Toffler correctly prophesied a technology-intensive future and counseled the need for a technology ombudsman, \u201ca public agency charged with receiving, investigating, and acting on complaints having to do with irresponsible application of technology.\u201d\n\nFast forward to 2017 when legal scholar Andrew Tutt wrote \u201cAn FDA for Algorithms,\u201d in Administrative Law Review, explaining the need for \u201ccritical thought about how best to prevent, deter, and compensate for the harms that they cause\u201d and a government agency specifically tailored for that purpose.\n\nOne of the conversations that each and every one of us has to have is with our elected representatives. What is their position, what is their understanding of AI \u2014 it\u2019s impacts and potential harms.\n\nDemis Hassabis, CEO of DeepMind Technologies, the company acquired by Google that created AlphaGo, the program that beat the world Go champion in 2016, cautions that AI is now \u201con the cusp\u201d of being able to make tools that could be deeply damaging to human civilization.\n\nElon Musk, Martin Rees \u2014 Astronomer Royal, astrophysicist, and author of On The Future: Prospects for Humanity \u2014 and the late Stephen Hawking have each warned about misusing, misunderstanding, mismanaging, and under-regulating AI.\n\nJohn Brockman, who has served as literary agent for most of the seminal thinkers in the AI space and is editor of Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI,argues that \u201cAI is too big for any one perspective.\u201d The best way to expand one\u2019s understanding of this incredibly important topic is engaging in conversations. And that includes within the walls of your business.\n\nDon\u2019t let your organization lead itself astray with an overeager approach to AI.